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Second Look: Cedar Lake Trail Phase III

A few months ago, I posted some photos of the still-under-construction Cedar Lake Trail Phase III through downtown Minneapolis. The trail is now unofficially open to the public, although work continues on a few details like fences and lighting. But I think we can get a pretty good idea of what the final product will look like.

On the previous post, there was a lot of discussion in the comments section about where cyclists could get on or off the trail. I scoped out the situation this evening, and prepared the following Google Map (click through to see labels):

View Cedar Lake Trail Access in a larger map

The majority of the trail is bound by fences or walls on both sides, limiting access to the trail (which is generally good, so long as people can still figure out how to get on and off):


P1070894 by VeloTraffic, on Flickr

The exception to this rule is between 5th Street N and N Washington Avenue. Throughout this section of the trail, there are several places where cyclists will be able to easily get on and off of the trail, although none of them are intended to be access points. Still, I expect a lot of cyclists will exit and enter the trail here through the parking lot to the southeast. These parking lots are privately owned, so it may technically be trespassing to ride a bike through it, though I’m sure it will never be enforced. Once you’re in the parking lot, you can exit onto 3rd Avenue N or N Washington Avenue. Of the two, Washington will surely be more useful, since the 3rd Avenue N exit will send you on a series of one-way streets that will lead you out of downtown.

As you’re traveling to the north, the first easy place to exit the trail is just north of Target Field:

Unofficial Access to Parking Lot

The tracks in the dirt demonstrate that cyclists are already using this as a trail access point.


Only curb and grass separate the trail from the parking lots to the southeast.

Cyclists that don’t want to ride through the dirt or hop the curb will find these concrete gutters convenient to get on and off the trail (unless they’re pulling a wide trailer). This is fine (unless it’s raining), except that if cyclists are going to use it anyway, I would rather it have been a formal access point (which I assume wasn’t the case since the lots are privately owned).

Gutter Access

This gutter will probably be used by cyclists as trail access points.

At this point, it’s worth noting the drainage along the trail. In the photo above, the parking lot drains onto the trail through that gutter. Meanwhile, the trail slopes toward the parking lot, meaning that the entire area drains directly onto the portion of the trail designated for pedestrians. The orange devices in the photo above are temporary silt-catchers to keep sand out of the storm drains.  Let’s hope the storm drains work, or else the trail will have standing water anytime it rains.

More Storm Drains

Storm Drains along the edge of the trail.

Continuing north of Washington Avenue, the trail is once again bound by fences on both sides of the trail:


Fences on both sides of the trail.

There is a formal trail access point along the new portion of trail located just North of 1st St N. A short path to the southeast will allow cyclists to access surface streets at 2nd Avenue and Azine Way:

Trail access to the right (southeast).

Trail access to the right (southeast).

I like this little stub trail out to Azea Way for now, although if any additional development occurs in the future in the adjacent parking lot, I think we’ll want to re-evaluate this sidepath design:

Sidepath stub trail out to 2nd Avenue

Sidepath stub trail out to 2nd Avenue

Continuing northeast, the trail narrows and the space designated for pedestrians disappears:


Trail narrows. Designated pedestrian space eliminated.

Before meeting West River Parkway, the trail makes a couple of sharp turns, one of which is problematic. The trail does not widen to accommodate curves, and the 90 degree angle is uncomfortable. This corner will be especially troublesome for riders on recumbents, long bikes, or anyone pulling a kid trailer. The adjacent retaining walls also reduce visibility so you can’t easily see around the corner. I expect that there will be bike/bike or bike/ped collisions at this location:


Sharp, blind corner

After turning to the south, the path continues down to the West River Parkway elevation:


Ramp to West River Parkway

At the bottom of the ramp, the 90 degree turn to the northeast is much roomier and comfortable:


Notice the "Stop Ahead" sign turned sideways

The trail crosses West River Parkway and connects to the existing sidepath along the river:


West River Parkway Crossing

Despite it’s drawbacks, this trail is a much-needed portion of the trail network. Given the spatial constraints of the narrow corridor, I think the trail was well designed. I am sure this trail will be heavily used year-round.

2 comments to Second Look: Cedar Lake Trail Phase III

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